Bring back the old MM2H

Launched in 2002, the programme brought in investment and many people with good skills and extensive experience to Malaysia 


HASH Kapadia from the UK has been living in Malaysia for the past 12 years with his Japanese wife under Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme. 

Although his first choice was to settle in Singapore, Hash changed his mind as the Singapore government required his cats to be quarantined. 

“Although Malaysia was the next option, I never regretted coming here,” he said. 

However, he said, improvements are needed for the MM2H programme. 

Launched in 2002, MM2H aimed to promote the country as a retirement destination, allowing foreigners who meet its criteria to live in Malaysia for 10 years on a multiple-entry social visit pass, which is renewable. 

From September 2021 until June 2022, 1,461 people had applied to withdraw from the programme (pic: TMR)

Participants must meet certain financial and age requirements to be eligible. 

“Have you ever tried spending RM40,000 a month on living expenses? One simply cannot. Most retirees already have what they need, so RM10,000 to RM15,000 is more than enough for a couple per month. 

“They do not need RM40,000 in the US, Europe or Australia, so why ask for silly income levels that cannot be spent here? But I do agree on an annual stay of 60 to 90 days in a year,” Hash said. 

He also suggested allowing participants to buy a home of more than RM750,000 value. 

“They must buy a home here to show commitment and also, they could pay double property tax,” he added. 

Hash also suggested a quota system so a maximum number of people from one country, to keep the programme diverse and multicultural. 

“Participants who are over 55 and retirees should also be allowed to work. This would be beneficial to the country as they can share their knowledge and experience by being consultants. Participants should also pay a fixed tax payable annually,” he added. 

Additionally, Hash suggested reducing entry barriers. 

“The old scheme was good as it brought in investment and many people with good skills and extensive experience came to Malaysia, which should be tapped. Most were reasonably well off, so they would not burden the country,” he said. 

He pointed out that countries like Portugal, which has the Golden Visa programme, and other countries are introducing programmes similar to the old MM2H. 

“It is really sad that what was a good programme was canned. People made life-changing decisions to make wonderful Malaysia their only home but the loss of trust resulted in a lot of nice foreign retirees leaving for new pastures. 

“It could give the wrong impression of the country and its friendly welcoming people. A quota system to help keep the programme diverse is better than making it for the wealthy who do not make it their home at all,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR). 

New Conditions Chasing Applicants Away

In August 2021, the government announced new conditions for the MM2H programme, including the requirement for applicants to have permanent savings of at least RM1 million and a declaration of liquid assets of at least RM1.5 million. 

Previously, they only needed to have savings of between RM300,000 and RM500,000. 

An MM2H applicant must now also have an offshore income of at least RM40,000 a month, up from RM10,000 per month. 

Various parties disagreed with these changes, including Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, who warned that the new conditions would frighten off investors and dent the country’s revenues. 

In August last year, former Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said 1,461 people had applied to withdraw from the programme from September 2021 until June 2022. 

According to data provided by the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, some 48,471 foreigners were granted MM2H status between 2002 and 2019, with participants from China accounting for the majority (32.8%), followed by Japan (10.6%) and Bangladesh (8.9%). 

According to MM2H consultants that spoke to TMR, the programme grew in popularity then among Chinese and Japanese nationals, as well as Koreans. 

According to official data, the number of participants in the programme increased from 818 in 2002 to 6,195 in 2017. 

The programme provided benefits such as visa-free travel to Malaysia, access to Malaysia’s healthcare system and the ability to buy property and vehicles. 

Moreover, Malaysia is an appealing destination for many people due to its warm climate, diverse culture and low cost of living in comparison to other countries in the region. 

MM2H Programme by Other States

Meanwhile, the Sabah Housing and Real Estate Developers Association (Shareda) applauded the state government’s decision to lower the fixed deposit minimum to RM200,000 and the property purchase eligibility to RM600,000 for the MM2H programme. 

Shareda president Datuk Chua Soon Ping said the rationale to deposit RM200,000 in banks will have no significant effect on the economic spin-off in the local state market. 

“However, lowering the rate will allow Sabah MM2H participants to spend more on home purchases, cars and education, which will have a multiplier effect,” he said in a statement. 

Chua also praised the state Cabinet for considering Shareda’s recommendation to set the fixed deposit amount at RM200,000 rather than the RM1.5 million initially proposed by the federal government. 

He stated that the Sabah MM2H guidelines are one of the catalysts for investment in the state, as long as the costs are reasonable and attractive, as Shareda has previously recommended. 

Chua proposed online applications to make things safer and easier for applicants so that applicants who received approval in principle before arriving in Sabah could later submit documents for verification. 

According to the statement, developers with apartment or condominium units priced at least RM600,000, as well as schools and banks, will benefit from having this online platform because all relevant criteria and information will be available to applicants on a single platform. 

Chua responded to the Sabah government announced recently that they are looking for high yields from participants of the Sabah MM2H programme. 

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew said the state government had approved the prerequisites for the programme. 

Among the terms and conditions of the Sabah MM2H programme are a minimum stay of 30 days a year and the approved duration for an individual or family is five + five years stay in Sabah only. 

“Others are the eligibility to purchase property at RM600,000 and above, certification of good conduct from the applicant’s country of origin, medical check-up certificate and the opening of a bank account in any local bank in Sabah with a fixed deposit of RM200,000,” she said in a statement after the state Cabinet meeting. 

Meanwhile, the Johor government hoped that the federal government would consider its request to proceed with the Johor My Second Home (JM2H) programme. 

State Housing and Local Government Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Jafni Md Shukor said the issue was also brought to the attention of Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail during a recent meeting with Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi. 

He expressed hope that the JM2H policy will adhere to the conditions established for MM2H before the 2018 election. 

“Right now, for example, the condition for MM2H is that a person has RM1 million in savings, but this is not the case in the Philippines, Vietnam or Indonesia. 

“Furthermore, in Johor, one must stay for at least three months. We are trying to sell properties and conduct business, so we must be adaptable. 

“That is why we are bringing it up so that the minister (Saifuddin Nasution) can implement the original conditions,” he added. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition